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Bloche v. DOD, No. 07-2050, 2019 WL 1428337 (D.D.C. Mar. 29, 2019) (Contreras, J.)


Bloche v. DOD, No. 07-2050, 2019 WL 1428337 (D.D.C. Mar. 29, 2019) (Contreras, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning role of medical professionals in design and implementation of interrogation tactics in early to mid-2000s

Disposition:  Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege:  "[T]he Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to all of their claims for deliberative process privilege, with the exception of . . . seven documents . . . ."  Regarding those seven documents, the court explains that "Defendants have not provided sufficiently detailed justifications for all of the documents that they claim to be privileged."  "The Court exercises its 'broad discretion' to order submission of the above-listed documents within thirty days for in camera review, along with updated justifications for the claims of deliberative process privilege."  However, the court finds that majority of the information concerning "draft agency policy documents and the discussions surrounding them[,]" as well as "formulation of agency responses to statements or inquiries from other entities – like media organizations, public interest groups, and even other governmental departments[]" appropriately withheld under Exemption 5.  Regarding segregability, the court finds that, "with the exception of the seven documents specifically identified as having insufficient explanations, the entries in their Vaughn indexes are adequate."
  • Exemption 1:  The court holds that "the Navy's submission is sufficiently detailed to show that parts of [one document] logically fall within the scope of Exemption 1."  The court relates that "the Navy has asserted that the parts of the document are classified at the 'Secret' level[,]" and "it certainly makes sense that a classified detainee interrogation log would contain information about intelligence sources and methods, and the agency's declaration explains that there are many reasons why revelation of those sources and methods could risk national security and the defense against transnational terrorism."  "The declaration also explains that '[d]etailed knowledge of the methods and practices of an intelligence agency must be protected from disclosure because such knowledge would be of material assistance to those who would seek to penetrate, detect, prevent, avoid, or damage the intelligence operations of the United States.'"  "And the declaration says that '[d]isclosure of information the U.S. government obtains through intelligence sources or methods could reasonably be expected to enable persons and groups hostile to the United States to identify U.S. intelligence activities . . . and to design countermeasures to them.'"
  • Exemption 7(E):  "The Court therefore orders that the Navy submit these documents for in camera review."  The court finds that "the Navy's declaration merely says that the withheld material 'identif[ies] Law Enforcement and/or National Security techniques and procedures that are not widely known' and that are sometimes 'intended for covert use.'"  "Disclosure of this information, the Navy contends, 'would diminish or negate the effectiveness of these techniques and procedures.'"  "This reasoning is conclusory; it essentially just restates the applicable legal standard in different words."
  • Exemption 6:  The court holds that "Defendants have not even shown how the domain part of a government email address constitutes a 'personnel, medical, or similar file' within the meaning of Exemption 6."  "Instead, they merely assert that 'Plaintiffs do not cite any law in support of their argument that the domain part of email addresses should be released.'"  "This, of course, has it backwards . . . ."  The court finds that "[i]f Defendants still believe that certain email domains are exempt under Exemption 6, they may submit, within thirty days, an updated justification that explains (1) how the relevant domains are 'similar files' that refer to a particular individual; (2) how disclosure of the domains would implicate any substantial privacy interest; and (3) how that substantial privacy interest outweighs the public's interest in seeing the information."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 1
Exemption 5
Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(E)
Updated January 11, 2022